Is “disruptive” a dirty word all of a sudden?

One of the most revered words for internet entrepreneurs is “disruption”.

“What will you be disrupting?”, keen youngsters are asked when pitching their ideas. Being a disruptive company is a badge of honour, a sign of intelligence and innovative zeal – achieving success by “disrupting” someone else’s/

Of course, one person’s disruption is usually someone else’s destruction, and the outcome is by no means a good one in many circumstances. That’s not to say disruption can’t be a driver of value and progress, just that it doesn’t equate to it.

So it’s interesting to see an internet person having something bad to say about disruption. Tim Berners-Lee has been talking about the “disruptive threat” the ITU poses to groups that are already “doing a good job” of running the internet.

He may well be right (although any extended discussion of groups like W3C and ICANN rarely ends in a warm fuzzy feeling of contentment with a job being done well), but “doing a good job” has never traditionally been much of a defence against being disrupted into oblivion in the age of the internet.

Now, it’s quite possible that the ITU proposals under discussion are indeed ill conceived. But whinging about disruption seems a bit old-fashioned in the age of the ever-changing internet.

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